Daily Update: Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

John of the Cross and Catherine Doherty and Ember Day

Today is the Memorial of Saint John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor (died 1591), and the Remembrance of Servant of God Catherine Doherty (died 1985). Today is also the first of three Ember Days for this season of the year. Today is also the birthday of Richard’s cousin Devonne, and of his niece Laurie, daughter of his sister Bonnie in Texas (1966).

The future Saint John of the Cross was born as Juan de Yepes Alvarez in poverty in 1542 at Fontiveros, Spain, cared for the poor in the hospital in Medina del Campo, Spain, and became a Carmelite lay brother in 1563 at age 21, though he lived more strictly than the Rule required. He studied at Salamanca, Spain, and was ordained as a Carmelite priest in 1567 at age 25. He then considered joining the much more strict Carthusians, but was persuaded by Saint Teresa of Avila to begin the Discalced or barefoot reform within the Carmelite Order and took the name John of the Cross. He became master of novices, and the spiritual director and confessor at Saint Teresa’s convent. His reforms did not set well with some of his brothers, and he was ordered to return to Medina del Campo. He refused, and was imprisoned at Toledo, Spain, writing much of his great work The Spiritual Canticle while in prison, and escaping after nine months. He also authored the poem Dark Night of the Soul, the commentary on Dark Night of the Soul, and the mystical work Ascent of Mount Carmel. He became Vicar-general of Andalusia, Spain, and his reforms revitalized the Carmelite Order. A great contemplative and spiritual writer, he was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1926, and is the Patron Saint of mystics, contemplatives, mystical theology, the contemplative life, and Spanish poets. We also honor Servant of God Catherine Doherty (died 1985). Born as Ekaterina Fyodorovna Kolyschkine in 1896 in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, her parents belonged to the minor nobility and were devout members of the Russian Orthodox Church. In 1912, aged fifteen, she made what turned out to be a disastrous marriage with her first cousin, Boris de Hueck (died 1947). At the outbreak of World War I, Catherine de Hueck became a Red Cross nurse at the front, experiencing the horrors of battle firsthand. On her return to St. Petersburg, she and her husband barely escaped the turmoil of the Russian Revolution with their lives, nearly starving to death as refugees in Finland. Together they made their way to England, where Catherine was received into communion with the Roman Catholic Church on November 27th, 1919, becoming a Russian Greek-Catholic. Immigrating to Canada with her husband, she gave birth to their only child in Toronto in 1921. Soon she and her husband became more and more painfully estranged from one another as he pursued extramarital affairs. To make ends meet, she took various jobs and eventually became a lecturer, traveling a circuit that took her across North America. Prosperous now, but deeply dissatisfied with a life of material comfort, her marriage in ruins, she began to feel the promptings of a deeper call through a passage that leaped to her eyes every time she opened the Bible. Consulting with various priests and the bishop of the diocese, she began her lay apostolate among the poor in Toronto in the early 1930s, calling it Friendship House. Because her interracial approach was so different from what was being done at the time, she encountered much persecution and resistance, and Friendship House was forced to close in 1936. She then went to Europe and spent a year investigating Catholic Action. On her return, she was given the chance to revive Friendship House in New York City among the poor in Harlem. In time, more than a dozen Friendship Houses would be founded in North America. In 1943, having received an annulment of her first marriage (as she had married her cousin, which is forbidden in the Church), she married Eddie Doherty, one of America’s foremost reporters, who had fallen in love with her while writing a story about her apostolate. Serious disagreements arose between the staff of Friendship House and its foundress, particularly surrounding her marriage. When these could not be resolved, the couple moved to Combermere, Ontario, on May 17th, 1947, naming their new rural apostolate Madonna House. This was to be the seedbed of an apostolate that, by the year 2000, numbered more than 200 staff workers and over 125 associate priests, deacons, and bishops, with twenty-two missionary field-houses throughout the world. Doherty is perhaps best known for having introduced the concept of poustinia to Roman Catholicism through her best-selling book, Poustinia, first published in 1975. A poustinia is a small, sparsely furnished cabin or room where one goes to pray and fast alone in the presence of God for twenty-four hours. Her cause for canonization was opened in 2000; at the current stage in the process, a diocesan tribunal, as well as a historical commission, are examining Doherty’s life and writings under the supervision of the bishop of the Diocese of Pembroke. Her file in the Vatican is titled (in English) “Pembroke: Cause of the Beatification and Canonization of Servant of God Catherine de Hueck Doherty, lay faithful and foundress of the Apostolate called ‘Madonna House‘”; if you know of any miracles that can be attributed to her intercession, please contact the Vatican. Today is also the first of three Ember Days for this season of the year. Ember days (a corruption from the Latin Quatuor Tempora, four times) are the days at the beginning of the seasons ordered by the Church as days of fast and abstinence. They were definitely arranged and prescribed for the entire Church by Pope Gregory VII (1073 – 1085) for the consecutive Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after December 13th (the feast of Saint Lucy), after Ash Wednesday, after Whitsunday (Pentecost), and after September 14th (Exaltation of the Cross). The purpose of their introduction, besides the general one intended by all prayer and fasting, was to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy. Today is also the birthday of Richard’s cousin Devonne, and of his niece Laurie, daughter of his sister Bonnie in Texas (1966).

I woke up at 9:00 am, and of course did not try to see any Geminid meteors (not that I’d have seen any this year, what with the full moon). I turned on the computer (Richard had never turned it on yesterday), then did my Book Devotional Reading. I then started my laundry and read the morning paper while eating my breakfast toast. I then did my Internet Devotional Reading. I started the Weekly Computer Maintenance and reconciled the bank statement (which came yesterday) to our checkbook (no problems). I then wrapped up the books I had gotten for Kitten, and signed the Anniversary Card for Matthew and Callie. We then packaged up the presents and the Anniversary Card, with the card containing our present to Matthew and Callie for the holiday. I then finished the Weekly Computer Maintenance and started the Weekly Virus Scan.

We left the house at 12:15 pm, and at the Post Office I mailed off the packages, which should arrive in South Carolina on Saturday. (Richard had sent a text to Callie to be on the lookout for them.) We then ate a very good lunch at D.C.’s Sports Bar and Steakhouse, and I got my notice that our LSU Lady Tigers had beaten the Sam Houston State Bearkats in a College Basketball game by the score of 89 to 41; our LSU Lady Tigers (8-2, 0-0) will next play a College Basketball game in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with the North Carolina Lady Tarheels (8-1, 0-0) on December 18th. At the Hit-n-Run I purchased my Powerball and Louisiana Lotto lottery tickets for tonight’s drawing. At Wal-Mart I set up the annual appointments for Richard and for me at the Vision Center for January 18th. I then got some more Christmas wrapping paper and some other necessary household items.

Arriving home at 1:45 pm, the Weekly Virus Scan had finished. I did the Book Review for this weblog and for my Goodreads and Facebook accounts for Precious and Grace by Alexander McCall Smith; I also then did my Daily Update for yesterday, Tuesday, December 13th, 2016. Our mail today brought me back the Christmas card I had mailed to Richard’s brother Butch in Baton RougeI then finished my laundry, and started getting out the boxes of Christmas stuff. Richard put up the outside lights while I put out the wreaths and decorated the tree; I also put out a few other things that I always put out for the holiday. (I never put out everything in the boxes, as I had inherited all of my mother’s Christmas decorations, and Mom would decorate everything in the house, including the cat.) We then watched Jeopardy! while I did some of my weekly backup stuff that I always do on my phone on Wednesdays. At 7:00 pm we lit the Advent Candles, and while Richard went to Little Caesars for pizza pizza, I ironed my Casino pants, apron, and shirts. Richard gathered up the trash and wheeled the trash bin out to the curb. And I am finishing the eating of my pizza, and when I finish I will take a bath and do some reading.

Tomorrow is a day without Saints (in fact, no Saints until December 21st), but tomorrow is Bill of Rights Day, celebrating the ratification of the first ten Amendments to the United States Constitution in 1791. And tomorrow is the birthday of Jeanne, the granddaughter of Richard’s brother Slug here in town (1993). I will go to the grocery at some point tomorrow and get my salad supplies and Liz Ellen supplies, and make my lunch salads for Friday and Sunday. I will also do whatever house cleaning is still necessary, and wrap up my gifts for Liz Ellen and put them under the Christmas Tree. Tomorrow evening our New Orleans Pelicans (8-18, 0-4) will be playing a home NBA game with the Indiana Pacers (13-12, 1-2); I will record the score of the game in Friday’s Daily Update.

Our Parting Quote on this Wednesday evening comes to us from Rodney Whitaker, American film scholar and writer. Born in 1931 in Granville, New York, he became enthralled with stories as a boy. His family struggled with poverty, and he lived for several years in Albany, New York. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Washington. While there he wrote and directed his three-act play Eve of the Bursting (1959) and went on to earn a doctorate in communications and film at Northwestern University. He taught at Dana College in Blair, Nebraska, where he was chairman of the communications division, and served in the US Navy during the Korean War. Later he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship for study in England. In 1970 he wrote a nonfiction work, The Language of Film. While chairman of the Department of Radio, TV and Film at the University of Texas, Austin, his wife suggested the pen name of Trevanian for his fiction based on her appreciation of English historian G.M. Trevelyan. His first novel, published at the age of forty, was The Eiger Sanction (1972), an intelligent, gritty and thrilling spy spoof that became a worldwide best seller. Saddened that some critics did not ‘get’ the spoof, Whitaker followed it with an even more intense spoof, The Loo Sanction (1973), which depicted an ingenious art theft (which was reportedly copied by thieves in Turin). In 1975 The Eiger Sanction was adapted as a movie directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. ‘Trevanian’ requested in writing (and received) a screenwriting credit as Rod Whitaker. The balance of the script was written by Warren Murphy, the mystery writer perhaps best known for co-writing the Destroyer series of men’s action novels. In 1976 came The Main, a roman policier set in a poor neighborhood of Montreal with Claude LaPointe, a police lieutenant in his mid-50s whose wife had died young, as the lead character. Next came Shibumi in 1979, ‘Trevanian’’s meta-spy novel, which received the most critical acclaim. Whitaker kept the identity of ‘Trevanian’ unknown for years, refusing to grant interviews or contribute to the publicity efforts of his publishers. His first known interview was granted to Carol Lawson of The New York Times for a June 10th, 1979 article coinciding with the release of Shibumi, and it was rumored that ‘Trevanian’ was Robert Ludlum writing under a pen name. In 1983 ‘Trevanian’ published The Summer of Katya, a psychological horror novel. The widely diverse books solidified the myth that ‘Trevanian’ was a collective pen name for a group of writers working together. Under the name Nicolas Seare, Whitaker also published 1339 or So: Being an Apology for a Pedlar (1975), a witty medieval tale of love and courage; and Rude Tales and Glorious (1983), a bawdy re-telling of Arthurian tales. After a 15-year absence from domestic publishing, in 1998 ‘Trevanian’ reappeared as the author of a Western novel called Incident at Twenty-Mile, and a collection of short stories titled Hot Night in the City (2000). The Crazyladies of Pearl Street (2005) depicted the coming-of-age story of Jean-Luc LaPointe, a boy surviving with his mother and sister in the slums of Albany, New York in the years preceding and during World War II. Although the book was published as fiction, commentators described it as autobiographical. In November 2005 it was selected as one of eleven Editors’ Choice books by the Historical Novel Society (died 2005): ”Irony is Fate’s most common figure of speech.”

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